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    Tuesday
    Oct042016

    You are sooooo much more than a coach

    The commitment to being a coach runs deep. To spend time with someone, one on one. To take time to uncover the situation, identify some possibilities for breaking through and achieving that shift that is needed to help people reach their best.

    There may have been accreditations and development and courses to get you to this space of being able to do it seemingly effortlessly, artfully and craftfully.

    So when people set up their business as a coach, life coach, business coach, coach's coach or executive coach, I often twitch a little and think to myself, ‘Oh but you are soooooo much more than a coach.'

     

    Ingenious and Interlocking

    You might call yourself ‘coach' so people can find you and that explains what you do, but the art of coaching runs way deeper.

    Yes, the capabilities are complex and interlocking, layered and so very clever - ingenious even - to be able to connect with people and help them unlock or breakthrough and reach greater clarity, progress, understanding or heights.

    But why do so many coaches only deliver these brilliant services primarily as a coach?

    Many coaches have developed their own IP or curriculum, models or processes - or they’ve adapted ones they’ve learned to suit the field or industry they coach in.

    So why don’t they do more with their coaching skills?

    If they’re content and happy, great. But for many, it’s hard work, earning a decent living and having time to spare for self and others.

     

    Commodotised or Differentiated?

    If you say you coach, you coach. Actually, it can become a bit commoditised. You’re at risk of getting locked into corporate coaching panels and day rates aligned as the ‘same as’ the services of so many others. What differentiates you?

    Don’t get me wrong; this can be great, right, perfect for where you’re at. But even saying you’re an ‘executive coach’ still puts you with the others. 

    What if you had skills, knowledge and IP that wasn’t being tapped? That there was work, impact, influence, change or money 'left on the table’ or there were people you weren’t helping but could?

     

    More than...

    So what else could you do with those skills that don't involve the often labour intensive one-on-one sessions of coaching?

    There are other ways through which you can deliver your coaching prowess.

    The first most obvious is to take that knowledge and deliver it to a group, not 1 on 1.

    A group. Anything bigger than two people. Now you’re in facilitator mode.

    Not coach, but facilitator. Helping make the group’s work easier, not just an individual’s.

     

    (Hello: If you don’t like groups and you’d rather coach one-on-one, carry on. But if you’re thinking ‘hang on… maybe there’s something in this, I tried it a few times and…’ read on)

     

    As a facilitator, you’re asking questions, eliciting information, using models and processes and your wonderful capabilities to guide or help a group reach its potential.

    Not just one person at a time.

    The leverage and impact you have here is significant. Massive. More getting done, in less time, for more people. The power of the group is all powerful. The synergy (yes, synergy, a corny word but that’s what happens in a group - a mini explosion of euphoria as they bounce off each other and build a wonderful bubbling of possibility and insight) of the group is like... wow!

    Yes you still see individuals in the room. You can see their challenges, barriers and sticking points but you can see it as it affects the group, as well as the individual.

     

    Helping them with leverage

    Increasingly, businesses and organisations are needing facilitators who will help teams and groups make breakthroughs and progress and get clarity and do awesome work. Not just coach individuals.

    You can carry on being all one-on-one but it’s gonna take so long to get around to see and work with everyone. And many businesses just won’t take the time for everyone who needs it to have their on-on-one transformational journey. It's not leveraged enough; it's not productive enough and it's too pricey. Bottom line is not a good enough return on investment.

    How can you help a business leverage their people and their time AND bring your expertise as a coach?

    It’s to use your skills as a facilitator. To coach a group. To facilitate.

     

    Oh, and relax....

    And you can relax… you still have your coaching abilities to offer when individuals need your guidance and expertise. You don’t need to stop this or remove it or delete it. It's because you are more than a coach.

     

    So hey, don't label yourself just as a coach or only as a coach. It’s limiting your expertise and reducing their leverage. Plus it means there are teams and groups and businesses and organisations out there who could be benefiting from your great skills ... but they are having to wait in line until it’s their one-on-one time. 

    Tuesday
    Oct042016

    Why be a leader who facilitates? 

    Facilitation has probably been around as a competency for thousands of years.

    But in recent decades it’s been the realm of the expert: you bring in an expert facilitator to lead your strategic planning session or run your team workshop.

    But I see that things are changing.

    In this increasingly collaborative world, teams are working together like never before. When you bring people together, you bring diversity and difference. And it’s wonderful! And it’s challenging when you are tasked with leading a team. It’s not easy knowing what to do when something happens with all that diversity and difference bubbling around in the room!

    Perhaps the topic has gone off track or maybe you’re struggling to get decisions made. Maybe there are some louder voices in the team and some quieter people who don’t contribute as much. Perhaps you have someone playing politics or pushing their agenda a little too much. Maybe there’s conflict or aggression, or maybe everyone’s being so nice to each other and so agreeable that you’re not uncovering what’s really going on!

    Whatever the human challenges you have in front of you, facilitation has come of age. Its time is now. And yes, you could outsource it to an external facilitator, but aren't you wanting to build stronger relationships with your team, your organisation and your industry? Using facilitation skills to be the facilitator in the room is a key way you can do this.

    There’s never been a better time to get people together, get work done and do it in a way that’s:

    • Respectful
    • Collaborative
    • Productive and
    • Engaging.

    In the hundreds of workshops I’ve facilitated and training people in the Leader as Facilitator capability, I often ask ‘Why are you here?’ or ‘Why do you think you need to learn this now?’

     

    One of the biggest reasons is because of something broadly called:

    Challenging situations

    As organisations grow and more and more people find themselves attached to more projects and other people across the organisation, things start to get more complex. There are more people to consult with, the gain input from, to collaborate with. The bigger the organisation, the more facilitative you need to be. You can try to tell people what to do and go all hierarchical on them so… yep, good luck with that!

    As you’re bringing all of these people together, there are always tricky situations that need to be handled or addressed. When people are passionate, get emotional and outspoken, when some people contribute a little too much and when others don’t contribute at all.

    When there are quieter members of the team, when you have introverts, extroverts, ambiverts, loud mouths, power people, disenfranchised, disengaged, disinterested… whatever you want to label people (but please don’t label people), they are people and they’re doing the best they can.

    Still, these challenging situations arise and stepping into a role of facilitation can help. It can help:

    • When you need to get disparate views combined into one.
    • When you need to get agreement.
    • When people are frustrated or have different expectations.
    • When you need to brainstorm ideas and solutions.
    • When people won’t stop talking.
    • When you don’t have much time.
    • When you’re running against the clock or the calendar.

    These are all situations that can be resolved and managed by a leader adopting a practice of facilitation. You don’t need to be a teacher, parent or boss; just be a leader who can facilitate… and all will be well.

     

    Influence and change

    Workplaces the world over are going through constant change. Leaders need to influence their teams to get on board with the changes they’re driving and leading.

    Leaders can wait and wait for people to get on board and buy-in when they are ready and many leaders don’t ‘do’ anything but wait. Some leaders feel as if they are pushing people or it is counter to good leadership.

    But between doing nothing and pushing is this thing called ‘facilitation’. There’s nothing like a big change or transformation in an organisation to create the perfect conditions for facilitation. And change is everywhere.

     

    Compliance requirements

    For many leaders facilitation is now ‘required’ of them; they must use facilitation as a tool and approach to engage with other parts of the business and stakeholders (internal and external to the business) to get work done. There’s no other accepted way. You must consult, you must encourage people to participate, you must find out what others think and involve them in the process.

     

    Dictation is done

    Yes the role of leaders is changing. Dictation is done. Engagement is here. And we’re not doing it well enough. This sweet phrase of ‘bringing people into the process’ was added in a facilitation training program by a participant from a local government council recently. She explained that Council officers needed to be better at engaging their communities, at bringing them into the project or program of work. It applies to so many fields and industries; it’s time to bring people into the work, bring them into the process. Facilitation will help you do that.

     

    Virtual teams

    The rise of remote and distributed workers all over the world means that workplaces have a rich multicultural and multigenerational mix. The likelihood of some of your team being out of physical reach of you is a given. There WILL be people in other locations, cities, time zones. And that’s not changing or stopping soon. Engaging with them is vital. Working with them is expected, but it’s how you go about it that makes the difference. Facilitation capabilities can absolutely make the biggest difference; little else will like facilitation.

     

    More with less

    As we try to do more with less or quicker with fewer, lean organisations are rising to the top. Those businesses that can identify waste and work with leaner processes are proving their mettle in changing times. They’re able to learn and adapt and respond.

    Using facilitation capabilities to engage with people, get them on board and participating and making changes to become more lean is a fruitful and productive use of facilitation.

     

    Silos, sections, teams and departments

    Many businesses complain of silos across the organisation. Those disparate groups and teams who stick to their own company, who don’t much care to crossover to another part of the business lest they be foreign and unusual and difficult to work with.

    But in this difference is opportunity.

    Approaching the challenge of silos with a facilitation mindset makes progress easier. You might not rid the organisation of silos, but you’ll be able to approach other parts of the business, engage in conversations, work and dialogue - and get better outcomes than without facilitation. 

     

    Customer centric

    Businesses of all sorts need to connect, communicate and engage better than ever. Customers want to have input into the design, development and testing of products and services. User experience and customer facing teams need to connect with customers to gain true insights, learnings and lessons. It’s only through these truthful interactions can products and services be designed to suit customer needs.

    Facilitation is a powerful technique to use to elicit information from users and customers; you can connect with them better, ask better questions and then go deeper, finding out what’s really happening and how best to fix, respond or solve it.

    And when things don’t go so well in the customer interaction department, facilitation skills help customer-facing staff handle complaints and ensure customer interactions are enhanced.

     

    Amorphous collaboration

    Many teams in business are being thrown together and expected to collaborate, now! They have little ‘get to know you time’ and are expected to get up to speed or be up and running within a short time.

    This includes remote and distributed teams; with some members never getting to meet each other face-to-face. In this situation, facilitation practices by the leader are crucial. They need to help this team form, gel and glue. They need to help create the conditions where this team can feel comfortable and start working together. The leader plays the role of facilitator – not parent or teacher or boss or police officer. Facilitator…making things easier.

     

    Meeting dysfunction 

    When we get our team together, we meet. Endlessly. And we often repeat our bad meeting behaviours. Endlessly. It’s like an infinity loop with no end. A facilitator is needed to guide, coach, elicit, set the environment and make it okay for everyone to contribute and participate.

    The Leader as Facilitator is a leader who helps get sh*t done. They make the situation suitable for great, productive work.

    When people bring or push their own agenda or when the meeting goes off track, the leader can step in and help guide things to safety. When people have different objectives, cross-purposes or different visions – when they’re not on the same page – the Leader as a Facilitator can assist. Not solve, but make things easier. When a meeting has little or no focus, or loses its way, the Leader as a Facilitator can help.

     

    And.... Cultural change

    Above all, a Leader as Facilitator approach helps build a more positive, inclusive and collaborative culture both within teams and across the wider organisation. The practices of facilitation help influence, shift and change culture – for the better. When people listen better, participate more, contribute their best and play with a collaborative spirit, good things happen.

     

    Tuesday
    Oct042016

    The Visual Agile Manifesto - refreshed

    A few years ago I created a visual representation of the written Agile Manifesto.

    It seemed to resonate with people; it got printed out, pinned up on walls and was shared and talked about in workplaces all over the world.

    I've updated the visual - with the same elements - but looking a little more refreshed.

    Here it is...

     

    Tuesday
    Oct042016

    3 reasons why that meeting didn't make a decision

     

    ‘That’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back’

    ‘Urgh! There was no point in me even being there’.

     

    ‘And the purpose of that was *crickets*…’

    If you’ve felt the annoyance of an outcome-less meeting you’ll know it’s lost time, an hour or more of time you ‘can’t get back’.

    In an era where everyone’s got stuff to do, priorities of their own and deadlines to make, a time-wasting meeting is frustrating. It’s a career limiter too - particularly if you’re leading the meeting. You’re likely to get known as ‘that person that never gets decisions made’.

    The Cost of Lost

    Meetings that don’t make a decision are sources of lost time; they’re a waste of the incredible experience and brain-power in the room and there’s the cost of the actual working time of the people in the room. What a tragic ROI?! And don’t even start about the waste of a good meeting room when meeting space can be hard to come by in many workplaces!

    But did we get anything done?

    Yes, sure, there are times when you don’t need to make a decision in a meeting – it’s a meeting that’s about information sharing, or announcing something or it’s an ideas fest – but most meetings do need to get consensus or agreement or some type of outcome.

    It’s what most meetings are judged on: ‘did we get sh*t done?’

    What I hear a lot from people when I’m working with them to develop their Leader as Facilitator skills is that the meetings they run just don’t get the decision part done.

    And now you’ve got to … Schedule. Another. Freakin’. Meeting.

    Yes, you’ll need another meeting time in a week or two to do what should have been done in that meeting that just finished.

    Hostage Situations, Time Wasters & High-Priced Parties

    I think you need to avoid the ‘hostage situation’ as well as the ‘time waster’ types of meetings. This is where people are there against their will or you’ve got the wrong people in the room or didn’t get to an outcome.

    Meetings need to be high on engagement andhigh on outcomes.

    Avoid the ‘high-priced party’ meeting too, unless it really is a celebration and there’s little or no work to be done. (That’s where we’re having a great time but not doing anything!)

    For meetings in today’s workplaces, it’s about engagement + outcomes. You have to have people contributing and participating AND you need to get stuff done, the good stuff, the right stuff… not just any stuff.

    3 Reasons why there's no decision

    There are three reasons why meetings don’t make decisions when they should have.

    [Remember though that meetings are made up of people; people talking and working together. It’s not an automatic robotic machine meeting. We aren’t machines – we are people. We are people and we do things so we need to do something to make adjustments in meetings to make sure the right things get done. And decisions are a big part of that.]

    The three reasons why that meeting didn’t make a decision is ... something wasn’t clear:

    1.  The reason why you were making the decision wasn’t clear.

    2.  The decision to be made wasn’t clear.

    3.  The way you were going to decide wasn’t clear.

    You see, it’s all too fuzzy. If it were clear, it would have happened. The leader, the meeting, the people would have been able to navigate through. But you didn’t. And I reckon it’s one or more of the three reasons. Here they are in a slightly new way of thinking:

    1.           You (or the group or the leader or facilitator) didn’t decide why you were making the decision.

    2.           You (or the group or the leader or facilitator) didn’t decide what the decision is

    3.           You (or the group or the leader or facilitator) didn’t decide how you were going to decide

     

    That’s a Why, What and How. Sounds a little like ‘Start with Why’ doesn’t it?

    So before any type of meeting where a decision is expected, hoped or needing to be made:

    1.  Know WHY you need to make the decision

    2.  Know WHAT the decision is that needs to be made

    3.  Decide HOW you’re going to decide.

    That third one sound funny? Deciding how to decide? Yes, it’s a thing. (More on how to make the decision in my next post).

    Don't leave it to hope or luck

    Too many workplaces simply bring people together and hope they’ll talk enough to finally get to a point where they decide – or give in through exhaustion and frustration!

    Don’t leave decision-making to random events, luck or hope. You may have to do some deciding before the meeting or at least, before the meeting makes that all-important decision.

    Get clear on your why, what and how of decisions to be made and you’ll get known as ‘the person who helps us get sh*t done’!

    Wednesday
    Aug312016

    To Hack is the Way

     

    The challenges of the modern workplace aren’t new: low levels of engagement and morale, industry disruption putting pressure on the business, silos and disconnected teams, a slow pace of internal change due to resistance or lack of buy in and general busy-ness overload.

    It could sound a bit dull and depressing :-( yet when you look a little closer, you might find pockets of the business where ‘all is good’.

    For many people, teams and units across a business, a breath of fresh air and a jolt of innovation and inspiration is what’s needed to press ‘reset’ and embark on a new financial year or a new project or kick-off a fresh start. 

    So I’m here to tell ya: the hack is the way. 

    Yes, the hack.

    Not breaking-into-computers hacking, but rather coming-up-with-ingenious-ideas-for-tricky-problems hacking.

    Known as the ‘hack day’ or ‘hackathon’, increasingly clued-up businesses are bringing their teams together to identify top talent, reconnect their people, speed up the identification of ideas and shift up the vibe of the business’ culture.

    This article gives you three reasons why…  this one reckons all businesses should be hacking. 

    Too often in team days or dull planning sessions the loudest voices drown out fresh and upcoming idea makers in a workplace. Or worse, it's a meteor shower of PowerPoint bullet points. And even when ideas are presented, there’s a lack ofaccountability or responsibility or follow through to get things done to see if they’ll actually work. 

    So enter, the hack. A half, one or multi-day hacking event is proving to be a culture shaker, an innovation maker and a rut breaker!

    Full on input… and output

    Through these creative, collaborative, ingenious and full-on sessions, teams work together to design and deliver something; they create solutions to respond to real customer challenges. Whether that's a new strategy, or a new product. With an increasing focus on the customer, businesses of all sizes are seeing this is a sharp and clever angle for competitive advantage.

    The hackathon helps develop prototypes that can be put into practice quick smart.

    Best of all, you get a taste of agile - a taste of agility and of productivity. You get to play with some of the super human approaches and ways of working of leading global businesses who use hacks to their advantage. Think Google, NASA, Facebook, Salesforce, Uber, eBay, Qantas, Atlassian… 

    But hey, hackathons don’t have to be about technology; it’s where they were born, yes, but you can apply hacks to creativity and innovation in almost any aspect of your business, team, unit or industry. 

    I recently facilitated a hack session at a multi-industry conference; more than 100 people all working on individual projects and tasks but their outputs could only have been achieved in that timeframe using hacking techniques. It looks like we could be starting to hack the hack!

    Cool companies hack

    Big and small companies, teams and projects the world over are seeing the benefits of the hack.

    They get teams of people together to work intensively and rapidly to:

    • create new products
    • focus on customers
    • align the team and enterprise
    • create solutions to tricky problems
    • lift innovative thinking and
    • create collaborative environments.


    And wait, there's more. I love how hack events help you see how people work under pressure.  This type of environment helps you identify top talent, high potentials and high performers who may have been previously hidden, stifled or just uninspired!

    Plus it's time to find other ways to break out of those dull ruts and patterns that a team may have fallen victim to over recent times. It's so easy to get comfortable and stay there. 

    Most of all I love seeing teams mixing together - particularly when they're working across silos. People are enjoying the work  (because : happiness!) and they're bringing a competitive and cheeky team spirit to the event. The energy is electric and the solutions are often mind blowing!

    'Wha?! How did they come up with THAT?' is a phrase that's often heard. 

    Customer Focus

    With a customer focus, a hackathon or hack day helps create some big reasons to connect and talk more deeply with customers; to research and gather information, to uncover insights and to map out customer experiences. In these insights are genius solutions and ideas that the team can create during the hack. 

    Practical ... and Keep Going

    Many hackers rave about how practical and productive hackathons are. It's not about talking all day. Yawn! Hack days are about getting sh*t done, doing things. It’s about short sprints of activity over the day or days and teams working rapidly, pushing through doubt or procrastination and experiencing a highly productive environment where delivery is everything.

    And then with the experience of the hack, teams take hacking elements back to their workplace and workspace and find they’re able to generate innovative ideas and work productively by applying same, again and again. 

    One team I worked with recently continued using their 'Hack Pack': it's a bunch of practices I run in a hack day. When they want to re-live the experience of the hackathon in their everyday work, they simply choose a technique from the Hack Pack ... and go!

    7 things

    Now, before you go all crazy and book a venue and invite everyone to hack together, think about these 7 things first: 

    1. Focus: why are we going to hack and what might the theme be? 

    2. Hackers: who's in? Who wants to come, needs to be there or would benefit from the lift of the hack?

    3. Schedule: what's going to happen when on the day? What's the schedule of things? 

    4. Process: how are you going to hack? What will you do when? Who will facilitate it for you (yes of course, let's talk about this!)

    5. Celebrate: how will you cheer on the ideas, outputs and progress the hackers make throughout the day?

    6. Implement: how will you bring the prototypes you create to fruition and put them into practice beyond the hack? 

    7. Integrate: how will you weave the learnings from the event into your culture for ongoing benefits, ROI and overall hacking goodness?

    Your hack plan could look like this...



    Leading companies and businesses across so many industries (beyond technology) are learning that today's challenges need new ways of thinking, acting and working. They're looking for better ways to drive creativity and ingenuity - yet all the while still solving problems and challenges. (Oh and let's maintain or strengthen our competitive advantage at the same time!)

    When you need to get all of that done, they know - and you do too - that where there’s a hack ... there’s a way!